Growth Enhancement Scheme Agro-dealers Association of Nigeria (GESAAN) protest non-payment of N39bn GES claims.
The Growth Enhancement Scheme Agro-dealers Association of Nigeria (GESAAN) on Tuesday in Abuja staged a peaceful protest, asking the Federal Government to urgently settle their outstanding N39 billion claims.
The protesters marched to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, carrying placards with inscriptions: `Buhari, save GES’, `No farmer, No nation’, `Pay us our 2014 to 2017 subsidy’ and `This is a breach of trust’.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, Kabiru Umar, National Chairman, GESAAN, threatened that members of the association would not participate in 2017 wet season farming until the monies were paid.
According to him, agro dealer network has played a key role in solving the problem of farm input distribution through the GES programme, in the past few years.
“The idea behind our coming out today is that we have suffered many years of non-payment of our money.
“We have satisfied the government’s yearning to support farmers at the grassroots, given them inputs.
“Government has not completely paid us for the outstanding liability for 2014, 2016 which is N29 billion and now, we just finished another GES in February 2017, and we also gave inputs to the farmers.
“We were told before we began the programme for 2017 that the money was ready, that they will pay us as soon as we finish.
“Based on that, we participated and it is now six weeks, we have not been paid. We were told that there is no money.
“The rainy season is about to start, and we do not have enough money to buy inputs to sell whether under the GES or in the open market.
“We will not participate in the wet season farming until we get our payment,’’ he said.
Addressing the group, Bukar Hassan, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, assured that the government would begin payment of the monies immediately.
Hassan disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved some money to aid the payment of the outstanding monies, owed from 2014 to 2015.
“We are partners in progress and partners do not quarrel.
“We appreciate your functions and responsibilities to reach our teeming farmers at the grassroots; otherwise, these farmers will not be able to get such inputs.
“The present administration places a lot of emphasis on agriculture.
“President Buhari has approved certain amount of money to be paid, out of the N29 billion, and this will be paid to you immediately.
“That payment will be done by the Federal Ministry of Finance, as has been the procedure in the past.
“The government places importance on this programme, and that is why it decided to pursue it to a logical conclusion.
“We will do our best to ensure that these payments are done based on equity.
“And, therefore, all the dealers who we owe should be able to be paid something out of the resources,’’ he said.
Also, Ohiare Jatto, Director, Farm Input Support Services Department of the ministry, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the non-payment of the agro-dealers was as a result of the delay in the release of the balance of the ministry’s 2016 budget allocation.
“We thought the ministry will get 100 per cent of its 2016 budget allocation. As at now, the ministry only received about 65 per cent of its 2016 budget.
“The rest monies are yet to be released; but we are hoping that soon, the balance of the allocation will be released, and we will pay them as soon as that happens,’’ he said.
Nuru Ahmed, an agro dealer from Katsina State, and Chief Ebere Orji, from Ebonyi, said that some of their members took loans from banks to participate in the business.
The GES scheme was launched to provide support directly to farmers, to enable them to procure agricultural inputs at affordable prices, at the right time and place.
It is also geared toward changing the role of government, from direct procurement and distribution of fertiliser to a facilitator, and regulator of the commodity’s quality, and catalyst for active private sector participation in the fertiliser value chain.